Lester is a 2 year old, male, neutered, black lab. He has always been healthy. Today he presents for mild lethargy and a wound on his lower neck where his electronic fence collar sits. The owner leaves the collar on all the time. On physical examination Lester seems normal except for a painful and swollen wound on the ventral neck. Once you clip the hair you see that there are 2 deep punctures present with purulent discharge. The wound looks very similar to the picture below.
What caused this wound? How do you treat it?
This wound has been caused by the shock collar being in contact with the skin with too much pressure for too long. Essentially, this is a pressure sore very similar to a bed sore.
When the prongs on the collar apply too much pressure the blood supply to the underlying tissues becomes compromised. If this happens for a long enough period, the tissue dies. The prongs then can slowly penetrate the skin.
Patients with these wounds usually have a very foul odor about them due to the necrotic flesh present. If the wound goes unnoticed for long enough the infection kills more surrounding tissue and the wounds can get rather large.
These wounds are trying very hard to heal so there is usually a good amount of what is called granulation tissue present and trying to fill in the defect. These wounds are usually relatively old. They do not develop over night. Therefore, it is usually best to allow these wounds to heal without surgery.
Shock collars like Lester has are very common training collars. They are not perfect though. The underground fences do not keep other animals out of the yard. Some dogs will run right through the fence like it is not even on. The fences can be knocked down by power outages/surges and other interruptions. I have heard of collars having malfunctions and burning the dog but have never seen this. These things said, many of us at the clinic use underground fences.
The biggest thing to remember about the shock collars to prevent wounds like Lester's is to use the collar appropriately. Make sure it fits properly. When not in use, take the collar off. Do not keep the collar on 24/7. This is a recipe for pressure sores like Lester's.
Because Lester is a young rambunctious dog who does not hold still very well and the wound area was painful, he was given light sedation and his wounds were clipped and cleaned. He was discharged with antibiotics and pain medications. The owner kept the wound area clean and dry. At the recheck 2 weeks later the skin was healed closed but the scar formation will continue for a few more months.
The owners will continue to use the underground fence and collar, but will be much more conscientious about taking the collar off when not in use.